So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, August 30, 2013

The times they are a changin' • Exit the Sisters of Saint Anne

Photo: Agnieszka Krawczynski/The B.C. Catholic
& The Busy Catholic

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.
—Bob Dylan
The once proud Sisters of Saint Anne (SSA) are leaving the Archdiocese of Vancouver. To some eyes, the above photo says it all: a world-conformed religious order that, having abandoned their identity in Christ, is forced to abandon its missions due to a lack of vocations, a lack of labourers for the harvest. Perhaps the Sisters offered junk food instead of fine cuisine to attract a workforce for Christ?

It might be recalled that a few years ago the SSAs on Vancouver Island closed Queenswood, a large retreat centre with nun's residences, a library, conference rooms and a chapel on a beautiful 14 acre parcel of land. Rather than donate the building and land to the Diocese of Victoria, the Sisters opted for the University of Victoria, an act interpreted by some as a snub to the Diocese. Whatever the case may be, the Victoria SSAs have slid into oblivion, unable or unwilling to reverse their course.

While the SSAs have diminished, the OPs have increased. The Dominican Sisters, after a decade long presence in the Archdiocese, have constructed a lovely monastery located in the Garibaldi highlands of British Columbia.

One could be forgiven for not being able to recognize the women in the first photograph as women religious. The world-clad Sisters of Saint Anne who, having adopted every new age practice (e.g., Reiki, the Enneagram) while marginalizing authentic Catholic spiritual practices, are practically indistinguishable from their surroundings, i.e., are worldly in dress and attitude. The Dominicans, below, clad in their habits, maintain and promote Catholic religious practice and leading people to Christ by their embrace of Lady Poverty and faithfulness to Christ and His Church.

In every age, the groups within the Church which have had the greatest difficulty convincing non-believers and lapsed Catholics to embrace Christ are those which fail to adequately and in an obvious way distinguish themselves from the hedonism and narcissism of the times. In response to a call from God, Francis and Dominic began a renewal which, because it was entirely faithful to Christ, stood in sharp contrast to the culture of their times. Their example in word and deed, so closely a mirror of the Gospel, led the purification of the Church and a return to faithfulness. By contrast, Luther and Calvin, defined by a spirit of protest and hamstrung by their own narrow perspectives and pride, trusting more in the force of their own personalities above the will of God, led a revolt more than a reform which ripped the Body of Christ apart. Most communities of the Reformation, true to their founders' approach to reform, have become infected and conformed to the world. It is somewhat astonishing that a group of nuns with ample access to the historical record, i.e., the Sisters of Saint Anne, could not anticipate the consequences of their own misguided reforms by appreciating the downward trajectory chosen by the communities of the Reformation.

The distinctions between the two groups could not be clearer. The Dominicans, in their way of life and tried-and-true spirituality, represent a confidence and artfulness (habits are a beautiful and convincing witness to the new life one finds in Christ!) that attracts others to the beauty of Christ. By their humility and having chosen the "better part", the Dominican Sisters are more transparent to the Holy Spirit Who disposes people to Jesus. Like so many other congregations in the Church, the Sisters of Saint Anne, having shed their habits, are more a sign of timidity and a loss of conviction, especially a loss of conviction concerning the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only Son of God and only Saviour of the world.

It would be wrong to focus on the examples of worldliness and cuckoo-for-cocoapuffs antics of the Sisters of Saint Anne while failing to acknowledge the service they have provided to the local church. The Sisters have, for decades stretching back more than a hundred years, operated schools, nursing homes and later functioned as prison chaplains, even as their congregation evaporated. If others can learn what was right with the Sisters of Saint Anne while avoiding the serious wrongs they embraced, then perhaps good can come from the loss of the SSAs.

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Local News

Word has it that five new young Franciscan friars have arrived in Victoria, BC and are making our city a hub for fostering vocations. Praise God!

As much as many places on earth depend upon the mercy of God for protection from the consequences of men's sins, so, too, the faithful living in the seemingly tranquil City of Gardens rely on God's mercy and His protection from the virtueless. Thanks be to God for His merciful relief, relief from lukewarm religion and liturgical abuse. The Diocese has undergone a seismic shift in the right direction over the last decade. Though there is still much work to be done, the arrival of the latest group of Franciscans is yet another sign of blessing that restores hope and kindles the fire of renewal in the hearts of the faithful.

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